Wasps v Exeter Chiefs
This was a quite palpitating contest at Twyford Avenue as the two teams competed for the all-important fourth position in the table.
With seventy minutes already on the clock Wasps’ last pass failed to find its target as they swept over the line. Even then the referee had an earnest conversation with his AR to check there had been no defensive misdemeanour. The drama could scarcely have been greater. Then thirty arms in white shirts were raised to the heavens: a seventh win on the trot for the Chiefs – by two points.
Wasps had begun magnificently; in a bitter east wind they swung the ball left to Celia Quansah; she escaped a claw and was over inside three minutes. (5-0)
Exeter’s forward power took full advantage of a flurry of penalties (5-7), but then Patricia Garcia hoisted one of her trade-mark box-kicks, forgetting that this is an open invitation to the panzers facing her. Abby Dow fed Meg Jones who made a huge break; the support was there for Amy Wilson Hardy to score a thrilling try in the right corner. (10-7)
At least six voices spoke up behind the posts, calmly adding their advice for future tactics: the Chiefs have an impressive line-up experience and brain-power to go with their skill-sets.
Hardly a minute later and – bless my soul! – Jones breaks again and AWH finishes the job on the right – memo: she’s wearing 13 today. Are Wasps going to run away with the game? (15-7). Time for liquid refreshment.
Wasps break away yet again; Kate Alder is brought down just in time; but the support works the ball the other way and Quansah strides over on the left for a fine second score. (22-7) This conversion brings up Jones 100th point of the season; but her running and linking have been just as important to her side.
Now the game changes course. The Chiefs drive heftily through their pack, and McKinley Hunt is awarded their second try.
This was a game Wasps shouldn’t have lost. The shift in momentum continued into the third quarter when they allowed Chiefs to command territory and possession for long periods. In that time they scored two tries to take an unexpected but deserved lead.
First Taylor Black then Hunt swing the score to 22-28. Alder added Wasps’ only score of the second half to regain the lead (29-28), but Chiefs’ pack, with Laura Delgado now installed, was taking charge up front.
Exeter followed a Wasp tactic of choosing a pot at goal from a penalty rather than the chancier line-out in the corner. Gabby Cantorna held her nerve to add three vital points.(29-31)
Those final moments could hardly have been more dramatic. Wasps swarmed into attack down the slope; the ball swung right; a last pass to Alder and down it went as she crossed the line. Ah me!
This was a game Wasps shouldn’t have lost. After two massive performances against Quins then Sarries they must surely have fancied their chances here, even against a side riding on a wave. Pre-match Susie Appleby talked the Wasps side up, but her view was realistic. As for the newbies, they have power and control up front, aided by the immense experience of Garcia behind them. The backs, even without Lauren Cattell to guide them in the centre, have skill and strength to spare.
Fortunately for Wasps they still have a game in hand and a 2-point lead. Both sides have hard fixtures to come: Wasps away to Lightning and Exeter at Sarries. But it’s catch-up time next week:
Sarries v Sale
Glos-Pury v DMPDS
This was one of the very few games possible this season with two female DoRs in charge. It did them great credit, yet another huge advertisement for the Prem 15s. Two talented sides provided quality and excitement despite the biting easterly. Our thanks to the three units who provided livestreaming, but can full TV coverage be far behind?
Teams: Wasps Exeter
15 DOW TERRY
14 WILLIAMS C DOIDGE
13 WILSON HARDY ROBINSON
12 ALDER CANTORNA
11 QUANSAH MACKINDER
10 JONES BLACK
9 GRAHAM GARCIA
1 CRAKE DE MARCHANT
2 WEST TUTTOSI
3 MUIR KATO
4 BURNFIELD LEITCH
5 MILLAR-MILLS HUNT
6 McMAHON JEFFERIES
7 KABEYA JOHNSON
8 MITCHELSON ZACKARY
16 IRONTON KITLINSKI
17 STOCK ROBERTS
18 RANSLEY DELGADO
19 BALOGUN FLEMING
20 NYE MOYNIHAN
21 WILLIAMS F DAVIES
22 KILDUNNE GOWER
23 MASON BURGESS
DMP Durham Sharks 0 Loughborough Lightning 62
Harlequins 28 Gloucester-Hartpury 15
Saracens 53 Bristol Bears 7
Wasps 29 Exeter Chiefs 31
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
Table P W L B Pts
Saracens 13 11 2 11 57
Harlequins 13 11 3 12 56
Loughborough 14 11 3 9 53
Wasps 13 9 4 10 46
Exeter 14 9 5 8 44
Glos-Pury 13 6 7 6 30
Bristol 14 4 10 6 22
Worcester 13 3 10 4 16
Sale 12 2 10 2 10
DMPDS 12 0 12 0 0
Saracens v Bristol Bears
Referee: Harry Walbaum
ARs: James Clarke and Matt Sharpe
DMP Durham Sharks v Loughborough Lightning
Referee: Ben Rayner
ARs: Rebecca Rees and Tom Doig
Harlequins v Gloucester-Hartpury
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell
ARs: Neil Sweeney and Michael Woods
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs
Referee: Charles Gayther
ARs: Sam Phillips and James Pidding
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
Referee: Hamish Grant
ARs: Andrew Wigley and Peter Caunt
with thanks to rugbyreferee.net
With exactly a month to go the first round of the 6 Nations the following Red Roses were not listed to play:
With any luck we’ll soon be learning who has caught the England selectors’ eye. The opening fixture in the reformed Six Nations takes place on 3 April against Scotland.
In the meantime the management have more complex matters to attend to: no World Cup this year, so what, if anything, takes its place? They must surely be hoping to arrange as many international as humanly possible, but so much depends on how the world overcomes the constraints of Covid-19. Imagine the first priority might be (yet more) games against France; will both sides be equally willing; will travel and accommodation be available; will crowds be possible? – and so on and on.
Before events overtook expectations, the Red Roses were hoping to tour New Zealand this summer. Now there’s an irony.